A Protest The Media Was Waiting For

Posted by: Mark Gimein on October 22, 2011 at 7:15 PM

Zuccotti1.jpgLast night I went down to Zuccotti Park.* Getting there now means navigating a maze of police barricades. “People are stupid, they don’t know what’s going on down there,” one cop muttered as I squeezed past him—though he was polite enough to direct me when I explained that I actually wanted to get to “what’s going on down there.” Once you are inside, though, it’s a nice enough scene, with a vibe resonant much more of optimism than foreboding.

To me, though, the protests are more powerful online than live. The demonstration itself feels familiar in all the wrong ways—a youthful assemblage with nearly as many anti-war signs as economic protest signs. It is as if the closer you get to the epicenter, the more amorphous the subject and demands become.

One way to get a sense of this is to compare the officially “unofficial” OWS blog to the We Are The 99% Tumblr. The rawness of the individual stories on the Tumblr and the hand lettered signs is genuinely affecting. The blog, on the other hand, won’t do anything to persuade anyone who is not already on the same side.

“Why has this succeeded where other movements have failed?” is an acute question for the organizers of OWS, many veterans of other protests—anti-nuke, anti-capital punishment—that never gained similar traction (See, for instance, this long piece by David Graeber at the econ blog Naked Capitalism). I think the range of the personal stories is a bigger factor than the organizational efforts on display at Zuccotti Square.

Another factor is that the media was already primed for this story. Organizers ask why the press has paid attention to this when they’ve ignored so many other protests. The answer isn’t that the press was somehow forced to listen. It’s that the growing wealth gap is a story that has been getting attention from the media for a long while now (there are a ton of important stories the press has conspicuously failed on—this isn’t one of them).

What’s the takeaway strategy from the OWS protest? Maybe this: Take on a really big subject that the press is already eager to cover. Then add visuals.

*Correction: This post originally referred to Zuccotti Square. The protest site is Zuccotti Park.

Reader Comments

K Ackermann

October 23, 2011 10:31 AM

This is what an Australian said about Occupy Melbourne

"It seems to me that currently conditions in Australia do not mirror those elsewhere in the world. We escaped a recession, we are not facing extreme austerity, tens of thousands are not losing jobs, education system is functioning and occasionally excellent, healthcare is universal, close to free (for most) and very competent, tax rates are modest, welfare benefits extensive and not limited by time, society largely socially cohesive not prone to widespread violence, a reasonably equitable society."

Now, here we are being told that corporations are people too, but that's only for the upside.

Google "Citi Fined", or "BofA Fined" and it's clear these "citizens" are habitual criminal offenders. People don't get to admit or deny wrongdoing... especially dozens of times per year.

The banks have the ultimate welfare system in the Fed, and yet pretend they operate under the rules of capitalism.

The problems are so many and run so deep that it is foolish to demand any one thing, but if I had one demand, it'd be for the banks to be turned into utilities.

Guest

October 24, 2011 4:07 AM

It has nothing to do with wealth gap. It has to do with ETHICS. What these people want is ETHICS. This is what will solve the problems. Yes, the problems are many, but if there is a will from each individual to be ETHIC, virtually all problems can go away in a very short period of time.

Lionheart

October 24, 2011 5:36 AM


The current economic conditions, especially in Europe (e.g Greece) are the just the right context for these protests to be deemed 'News worthy'. Previous issues were more easily portrayed, perceived and even dismissed as 'fringe', or 'extremist',or 'anti democratic' etc... This issue is effecting everyone.

The previous comment is spot on however, what is needed is responsible, ethical economic management of the sort required to achieve sustainability in all areas of life; an attempt of tackle the problems of global warming, manage finite resources, re nurture our social cohesion and help growing economies from making the same mistakes that we have made.

spongebob

October 24, 2011 5:51 AM

Sorry but it DOES have to do with the wealth gap.

Is it really a coincidence that the Bush tax cuts, 2 unwinnable wars, unsustainable government debt (see 2 wars) and Wall St malfeasance have also seen the most extreme wealth outcomes since the roaring twenties ?

Sorry, but it's all connected...

loc

October 24, 2011 5:56 PM

Write off the debt.
Let everyone who should default default.
Nationalize and then re-capitalize the banks until the system is balanced.
Then start over.

Nemesisforpredators

October 25, 2011 3:42 AM

And, dear GUEST, where do your ETHICS come from?

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.Your wealth has rotted, and the moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you." James 5:1-6.

This is the root and branch of the problem. It is spiritual. And so, because all your discussions are only material tinkering with the symptoms instead of confronting this truth, you remain part of the problem, incapable of even approaching the vocabulary of a solution.

The first step in renewal has always been earnest ongoing repentance of their own parts in the evil by all concerned. That was the essence of the Great Awakening that saved Britain from the French Revolution and liberated the creativity that produced the Industrial Revolution and mobilized social justice.

It can happen again through movements like OWS. They need our support.

Nemesisforpredators

October 25, 2011 4:24 AM

Dear Guest, I agree with you but where do your ETHICS come from? How about this?

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.Your wealth has rotted, and the moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you." James 5:1-6.

This is the root and branch of the problem. It is spiritual. And so, because all your discussions are only material tinkering with the symptoms instead of confronting this truth, you remain part of the problem, incapable of even approaching the vocabulary of a solution.

The first step in renewal has always been earnest ongoing repentance of their own parts in the evil by all concerned. That was the essence of the Great Awakening that saved Britain from the French Revolution and liberated the creativity that produced the Industrial Revolution and mobilized social justice.

It can happen again through movements like OWS. They need our support.

El Foley

October 25, 2011 8:11 AM

This reporter is deluding himself if he thinks income and wealth inequality has been covered adequately by the press. Just more CYA.

Point Noted

October 26, 2011 2:17 PM

Mark Gimein has it wrong. The protests were ongoing before the press and media got wind of it. It was all over twitter, Facebook and other non US media before network television got wind of it. There was more media coverage on Amanda Nox, this very cute beautiful blonde woman who got into trouble elsewhere in Italy.

Get your facts right, Mr. Gimein or I suggest get familiar with Twitter and Facebook or for that matter even BBC news will help.

KathrynSchulz63

March 13, 2012 1:55 PM

It will be interesting to see how much the protesters will accomplish. I will check out for future updates.
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"The Wealth Debate" is a running discussion of wealth, poverty, the economy and income inequality in the U.S. and the world. It was started shortly after the Occupy Wall Street movement sparked a global protest about the fallout from the financial crisis and money in politics. You can reach the editors, Dan Beucke and Mark Gimein, by email, or follow BloombergNow on Twitter to keep up with posts.

Analyses or commentary in this blog are the views of the author and or commentators, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

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